baseball gods productions

Thoughts about baseball, from the perspective of sports psychology and the role of sports in society. It includes team and player analysis, predictions, and what I think needs to be changed in Major League Baseball. Brought to you from the heart of baseball, Brooklyn, by baseball gods productions.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Something I thought I would never see

This weekend produced an abnormally high number of series sweeps, including all four series involving the Mets, Braves, Yankees, and Red Sox going the way I wanted. The odds of that happening are about 1 in a million, and show just how far the Yankees have fallen. Of course, they were playing Los Angeles de Anaheim, a team that always seems to have their number.

It is only a matter of days before the Yankees start firing/trading/executing people. They miss Gary Sheffield a lot more than they, or I, expected. Watching Sheffield hitting against Fausto Carmona last night reminded me of why Sheffield is so intimidating. He is an angry man with an angry swing. Even when his numbers aren't great, he makes the players batting in front of and behind him that much better, as shown on ESPN's telecast of the Detroit-Cleveland game last night. The Yankees aren't scaring anyone anymore. Aura and mystique are on the DL.

Losing Mike Gonzalez to Tommy John surgery is a huge blow to the Braves. It's the difference between the Braves having a bullpen about as good the Mets, and the Braves having a clearly inferior pen. The Mets rotation is much deeper than the Braves, and now that Tim Hudson has slowed down after an awesome start, it puts too much pressure on John Smoltz to do it all himself, which no pitcher can do. Chipper Jones being out certainly isn't helping things, either. Watch out for the Phillies to make a run at the Braves for 2nd, although they won't end up ahead of the Braves at the end.

Milwaukee has been slumping since they played the Mets, but I expect them to have a great second half and run away with the worst division in MLB. The only question is who will come in 2nd, and whether that team will be over .500 at the end. The Pirates are doing better than expected, with all their young pitching, and may just claim their first 2nd place finish in forever.

Caroms Off the Wall:

Curt Schilling should pitch more and blog less. He can't stand being the 4th best starter on the Red Sox (until Lester comes back, and he falls to 5th), so he is having an attention addict temper tantrum. I loved his criticism of Bonds and then the retraction, thus making himself look like a stand-up guy, and getting another couple of days of headlines. It's like Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy, where a mother makes her child sick and then comes to the rescue in dramatic fashion.

© Judy Kamilhor 2007

Saturday, May 19, 2007

It's May 19, and all is well in my baseball universe

On Monday, May 21, the Empire State Building will be blue and orange, to honor the Mets for winning the first Subway Series of the season. My guess is that if the Mets sweep tomorrow, someone big will pay, probably Joe Torre, and maybe Brian Cashman, too. I wouldn't be surprised to see Joe Girardi, currently a broadcaster for the Yankees, and last year's Manager of the Year of the Florida Marlins, named to replace Joe. The owner is fuming down in Tampa, and I don't know how much longer he can wait before doing something drastic.

As for the Mets, as great as they look right now, it will be a long and challenging season to stay ahead of the Braves. As I write this, the Braves are demonstrating one of the signs of a winning team: after getting blasted 13-3 in the first game of a day-night double-header by the Red Sox today, they are now leading 8-0 in game 2 behind their ace and future Hall-of-Famer John Smoltz. A good team will follow up a terrible game with a great game. A bad team will get beat again, and start to doubt themselves more and more.

On the other hand, people seem to forget that the Mets have more injuries right now than the Yankees, and are missing more key people, and that they should get stronger as guys like El Duque, Pedro Martinez, Jose Valentin, and Moises Alou return. They are even getting Guillermo Mota back in a few days, after his steroid suspension. I never liked the guy, but I have to admire someone who actually admitted to cheating and apologizing right away.

It sure looks like 1986 again, Mets-Red Sox in the World Series. Trivia for the day: Roger Clemens and Tom Seaver both pitched for the 1986 Red Sox! Maybe the Mets should sign Seaver for an inning once old Clemens is back on the mound for the Yankees. The only way Clemens will pitch in the World Series this year is if he gets traded from the Yankees at the trading deadline to a contender.

Short Hops:

I was wrong about Mike Pelfrey figuring things out. He was rightly sent down to get it together in New Orleans. He'll be back, but he needs to develop some killer instinct. Jorge Sosa has been so good in his first three starts that the Mets may not even need Pelfrey this year.

© Judy Kamilhor 2007

My Article on the Advocate Web Site

Please click here to read my article on people chosen last in sports as kids that is on the Advocate's Web site.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Monthly Review and Looking Forward for the Mets and Yankees

After one month, the Mets look as good as last year, except they have much more competition. The main change from last year is the Braves returning to almost elite status, promising to make a more interest playoff race in the NL East.

The NL Central is finally going as I have been predicting for a couple of years, with the Brewers seeming to have made that step up to the top of the division, and the Cardinals finally letting go of their grip on the top spot. It almost seems like time is going in reverse, and the Cardinals won the World Series last year to honor the memory of Josh Hancock, their 29 year old relief pitcher who died in a traffic accident a few days ago.

The NL West is unpredictable as usual, and any of four teams could end up on top when the last game is played. Jake Peavy is finally pitching like the ace he always seemed to be, but Trevor Hoffman seems to be going through the same thing as Mariano Rivera, aging closer syndrome. My theory--and of course we will never know--is that older pitchers are having a harder time adjusting to the new drug testing system than younger pitchers who have had tougher testing in the minor leagues for a few years. It's no accident that most of the top pitchers in the NL this year are relatively young. And it's not just steroids, I think amphetamines are more of an issue for relief pitchers, especially closers. Just my intuition, but it would be interesting to find out who failed amphetamine tests last year besides Barry Bonds.

The AL East has developed oddly, with the Yankees fighting to get out of last place. The last few years they have gotten off to bad starts, and somehow managed to win the division anyway. Not this time. They might still end up in the playoffs (I predicted a wild card for them before the season), but they aren't beating Boston this year. Boston's pitching is much better, and the offense and defense is close enough to allow the pitching to be the difference. Joe Torre is the best man to turn things around, but there are only so many times that can happen. There is no Aaron Small and Shawn Chacon to come out of nowhere and pitch like all-stars.

The AL Central is going to be a great race, with four good teams going down to the wire. The Tigers need Kenny Rogers to come back strong, and I think they will eventually end up on top, by a hair. The Wild Card probably won't come from this division, only because they will all beat each other enough to hurt their won-lost records and allow the Yankees or Toronto to win the Wild Card.

The AL West is falling into its usual pattern. Look for Oakland to make their annual second half charge, but Los Angeles de Anaheim will prevail.

Looking at the Mets in more detail, the biggest surprise is Shawn Green's hitting, and the biggest disappointment is Aaron Heilman's relief pitching. Joe Smith (needs a great nickname) is clearly better than Heilman, and everyone else in the bullpen, and he should slide into the 8th inning role sooner rather than later. Wagner is pitching better than I expected, but we'll see how he does when the pressure is on.

The starters have been very good overall, and the best news is that Mike Pelfrey seems to be learning what Rick Peterson and Tom Glavine have been telling him about location and movement being more important than velocity. Last night, he really looked good after a terrible first inning. It was almost as if I could see the light bulb go on over his head, as he started throwing 91-92 mph sinkers instead of 95 mph straight fastballs that were either out of the strike zone, or easy to hit. Look for Pelfrey to have a strong rest of the season, and not a minute too soon. With El Duque having the first of his usual assortment of injuries, it is very important for Pelfrey to step up. Chan Ho Park looked dreadful in his first start, and I don't know how long they are going to stick with him to fill in.

The position players have been good overall, but there are some things that need to be addressed. At times, the defense and baserunning have looked surprisingly passive, and they need to get back to the swagger and aggressiveness that made them successful last year. Every once in a while, Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes, their two MVP candidates, look a little afraid of getting hurt. Beltran seems to shy away from contact on balls hit in the gap, and Reyes looks tentative on tag plays at times. It's understandable that they would want to avoid injuries, since the Mets would have a very hard time replacing either of them, but it's worrisome nonetheless. Players are more likely to get hurt when they hold back than when they go all out.

For the Yankees, the Philip Hughes injury is devastating, because now it comes back to Carl Pavano to bolster the shaky rotation. Look for a trade in the next few weeks for a veteran starter who can pitch deep into games. The guy they could really use is Livan Hernandez of the Diamondbacks. Getting Roger Clemens is not the answer, unless they use him in the bullpen to pitch 3 innings every 3 games. Clemens is a 5 inning pitcher, the last thing they need right now. This trend of using relievers for no more than one inning at a time is really foolish. At the rate the Yankees are going, they will need an entirely new bullpen by July.

© Judy Kamilhor 2007